Phoenix Rising vs Austin Bold: USL Championship Playoffs Preview
Austin Bold FC travel to Casino Arizona Field in Tempe, Arizona to play Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday, October 26, 2019. It is a first round match in the USL Championship playoffs. It will be the 3rd meeting of the season between these two clubs, with each having defended their home pitch during the regular season. Phoenix comes into the match with a full week of rest as the Western Conference's top seed. Austin, who finished 8th in the conference, needed at win over LA Galaxy II in Wednesday's play-in round to earn a trip into the first round proper. Austin is 1 of 2 expansion teams, along with El Paso Locomotive FC to make it into the playoffs in the Western Conference. New Mexico United had a shot at making it 3 for 3, but they well to Sacramento Republic FC on Wednesday. The winner of the match between Phoenix and Austin will advance to play the winner of Saturday's match between Orange County SC and Real Monarchs (a match which is will be underway at the time this article is released).
Austin finished the regular season with 13 wins, 48 points, and a +1 goal differential. Phoenix finished the season with 24 wins, 78 points, and a +53 goal differential (all of which set new league records). Both clubs struggled a bit at the end of the season, as Austin went 0-2-1 over their last 3 matches, including a regular season ending loss to one of the leagues worst clubs, Tacoma Defiance. Phoenix also hit a bump in the road after their 20-game-winning-streak ended, and were just 2-1-2 over their last 5 matches. However, they did finish strong with a 3-1 win over OKC Energy FC in the season finale. With 53 goals scored, and 52 conceded on the season, Austin is middle of the road in both sides of the ball in terms of the conference ranking. Phoenix's 89 goals scored were by far the most in the conference, and 36 conceded was tied with El Paso for the fewest. Throw in the fact that Phoenix is playing at home, where they have lost just once this season, and this stacks up as quite a mismatch on paper.
Phoenix Rising vs Austin Bold Vital Information
This, and all USL Championship and USL League One matches can be viewed on ESPN Plus or the ESPN family of networks in the United States. The match is at 10:30 PM EST on Saturday, October 26, 2019.
Referee assignments have the referee as Elvis Osmanovic, with Benjamin Hall-Volpenhein and Christian Lara as the assistants, and Dejan Susak as the 4th official. On the discipline report, Austin's Kleber will be sitting out his 3rd consecutive match of a 4 game suspension. The discipline sheet is clean otherwise as card accumulations are reset for the postseason.
This will be the 3rd meeting all time between Phoenix Rising and Austin Bold FC. In the previous 2 meetings, Phoenix has won 1 time, Austin has won 1 time, and there has been 0 draws. Phoenix won the last match-up on July 19, 2019 by a 6-0 score at Phoenix. Austin defeated Phoenix 1-0 as Austin in the season's first match-up on April, 17 2019.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
Austin is a team that had almost half of their goals come from 2 players. As mentioned above, one of those players, 11 goal scorer Kleber will be unavailable due to suspension. That will put even more of the scoring burden on leading scorer Andre Lima, who had 14 goals during the regular season. Kris Tyrpak is 3rd on the club in scoring with 9 goals, but is a guy who has overwhelmingly be used as a sub, as opposed to a starter. The center attacking midfield position seems to be one that is a bit of flux for the team, especially with Kleber suspended. Against Los Dos on Wednesday, Sonny Guadarrama got the start in the number 10 role, but he has not been a regular starter either. On Wednesday Trypak subbed on for Guadarrama, but knowing that he will need all the goals he can get against Phoenix, my money is on Austin Bold manager Marcelo Serrano going with Tyrpak as a starter on Saturday.
On the defensive end of things, goalkeeper Diego Restrepo has been quite good for Austin this season. In 29 starts, his save percentage for the season is .698, which we will round up to 70%, which is the number that is the baseline for elite keepers. He also registered 8 clean sheets during the regular season, and a 9th in the play in round on Wednesday. The defense in front of him has been above average, but not great. In 29 starts during the regular season, Restrepo has faced 129 shots against. By comparison, his Phoenix counterpart Zac Lubin faced 102 shots against, also in 29 starts. This means on average Austin's keeper is seeing about 1 more shot on target against per game. It should be noted that 13 of those shots against for Restrepo came the last time he faced Phoenix. On that night he was able to turn away just 7 of the 13. Veteran center back Jermaine Taylor, a player with over 100 appearances in the MLS, anchors the defense and lead the club in minutes played at the age of 34. Another experience player, Amobi Okugo has nearly 150 career MLS appearances, but is just 27-years-old. Okugo is a versatile player who can play in the back 4, but is most often used as a defensive midfielder.
Striker Adam Jahn finished off his career year with a brace against OKC, to run his total up to 17 goals for the year. Jahn was one of three Phoenix players to score 15 or more goals, along with Solomon Asante's team leading 22 goals, and Junior Flemmings 15 goals. As impressive as this trio has been with a combined 54 goals, a true mark of this team's depth is that the rest of the guys combined to score and additional 32 goals. Austin's top 3 scorers combined for 34 goals as mentioned above, but the rest of the squad had just 19. There were 9 players on Phoenix's roster who scored 3 or more goals, compared with just 5 for Austin. I have written about this quite a bit over the past few week's but it cannot be overstated how important this is in the postseason. The luxury of bringing in a 6 goal scorer like Joey Calistri, or a 5 goal scorer like Ben Spencer off the bench is a luxury that teams in the USL Championship just don't usually have. It is also worth noting that Spencer's 5 goals have come in just 329 minutes played.
While Phoenix's offense gets all of the attention, as mentioned above their 36 goals allowed were tied for the lowest in what is the more offensive of the 2 conferences. Lubin's season has gotten lost in the shadow of the record breaking offense, but a save percentage over 75% for a full season is an elite number in any league. His 13 clean sheets were tied for 2nd best in the league, and was the highest total in the Western Conference. On the back line Amadou Dia is the team's iron man, and has anchored the back line for a few years now. However, it has been newcomers Mustapha Dumbuya and A.J. Cochran that elevated the unit from good to great. Midseason addition Corey Whelan has become a regular starter, and been rock solid in 7 starts since coming over from England. Being able to bring guys like Doueugui Mala, Joe Farrell, and Austin Leadbetter off the bench proves that this unit is every bit as deep as the offense.
Taking a look at the betting line, it's not much surprise that Phoenix is heavily favored. A $10 bet on Austin to win pays back $67.50, while a $10 bet on Phoenix pays back $12.80 is about all you need to know about this. The only thing that is important to remember is that even though this is a playoff game that will go to extra time, and then penalties is tied, the bet you are making is based on "Regular Time". In other words, if the score is tied at the end of 90 minutes, the draw, which is paying out $47 on a $10 bet will be the one that pays. Judging by these lines the oddsmakers don't see this going any way other than a Phoenix win in regulation. Most gamblers would only see this as the kind of game to throw into a multiplier or a parlay, but if you are the kind of thrill seeker who wants to put down a $100 and know that there is a very very good chance you will be going back to pick up $128, then this is the match for you.
Phoenix Rising vs Austin Bold Prediction
When Phoenix played at Austin earlier this year they were in their worst form of the season, and lost 1-0. When they played them at Phoenix they were in their best form of the season, and beat them 6-0. It's the playoffs, and Rick Schantz will has his club ready, so I am not expecting anything less than a solid Phoenix victory. I will shoot somewhere in between the last 2 scores as a final.
Prediction: Phoenix Rising - 3 Austin Bold - 0
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